Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
From the opening bars of "Wild and Peaceful" (almost a description of the group's style) with its soaring strings, crystalline piano, and flawless vocal harmonies, it's apparent that No Time Like the Future is rich with Incognito's patented blend of soul and finesse. "It Ain't Easy," with its refrain of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," is a classic funk outcry; "Fearless" is a wordless chant with some great rhythm guitar and booting jazz saxophone; "Nights Over Egypt" backs another great vocal with popping bass and orchestral atmospherics; "Black Rain" mixes exotic drumming with some subliminal dissonance. Producer-composer-guitarist Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick has added string arrangements by Simon Hale, appearances by the horns of the hot Cuban band Irakere, and the performances of small army of R&B singers (Maysa, especially) and British contemporary jazz players (Ed Jones stands out on tenor and soprano). The result is an irresistible combination of strong songs and pulsing rhythm tracks, all polished to slippery perfection.